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We Have Met the Enemy and...

A recent series of articles in the New York Times has revealed that progressive Democrats, who supported, but were not connected to the Doug Jones campaign against Judge Roy Moore for the Alabama senatorial seat, mounted at least two “false flag” operations to discredit Moore. Both operations, funded for $100,000 each, used social media—Facebook and Twitter— to post fake ads that tried to divide Republican voters in an effort to help Jones’ chances in the election. In one operation, a group of Democratic supporters which included Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Jonathan Morgan, CEO of a cybersecurity firm called New Knowledge, which has provided the government with information on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, pretended to be Republicans who supported an alternative candidate to Judge Moore and also managed to get Russian bots to respond to the Moore campaign, giving the impression that he was a favorite of the Russians. The group who mounted the operation claimed it was an “experiment” to see how Russian-style tactics worked in a real election. Hoffman of LinkedIn claimed to have no knowledge that his money was being used in a fake campaign and issued an apology and disavowal of such tactics.

 The second operation, whose funders remain anonymous, according the NYT, employed progressive media consultants, including Matt Osborne and Beth Becker, as well as Evan Coren, whom the NYT identified as an employee of the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives. This operation developed a Facebook page and Twitter account called  “Dry Alabama,” which posed as conservative Republicans who wanted to illegalize the sale of alcohol in Alabama. Its aim was to drive a wedge between Republican business interests who opposed alcohol prohibition, and fundamentalist Christian Republicans who favored it, as an effort to split Moore supporters. 

The money for both operations was funneled through an organization called Investing in Us, whose mission is, according to their website, “to bring entrepreneurs and investors to join the resistance in fighting for the American dream.” They say,  “We know from experience how individual liberty and the rule of law can build a prosperous future.” Dmitri Mehlhorn, co-founder and managing partner of Investing in Us and a fellow of the Progressive Policy Institute, who has helped a number of progressive candidates including LA’s mayor Eric Garcetti, may or may not have known how the money that went through his company was spent.

Doug Jones, the Democrat who narrowly won the election, has denounced the fake media operations and called for an investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators. Matt Osborne, who worked on the “Dry Alabama” campaign, told the NYT, that he thinks Republicans use similar methods and, “If you don’t do it, you’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back. You have a moral imperative to do this — to do whatever it takes.”

The revelation that Democrats—not the Party itself, but some of its well-connected progressive supporters—have used the same devious tactics that they accuse Russia of using, and which they say requires a federal investigation, is appalling. The claim that Republicans do the same thing (without evidence of the truth of such claims), so that makes it legitimate to “fight fire with fire” is ludicrous, since the arguments against such tactics are usually phrased as moral and ethical ones and the reason for deploring or even prosecuting them is to preserve the integrity of our election process. What I find as appalling and even more frightening is that the commentary to the Times’ articles has included many who are strongly in favor of such tactics. Typical of such comments are, '”It’s hard to get worked up about dirty tricks "false flag" operations that may or may not have helped defeat a truly heinous candidate for the US Senate,” or “There are thousands of instances of the GOP using these tactics. It’s awful but it’s the system right now: you can’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” The consensus of those who support such tactics seems to be that winning is more important than how you play the game, because the Republican opponents represent enough “evil” to justify using whatever means are necessary. 

You can’t preserve the moral high ground by abandoning it. Progressive values have always included a strong moral component: wealth doesn’t bring happiness if it's accompanied by the poverty of millions; keeping us safe from threat isn’t right if it necessitates keeping those who suffer injustice and danger from finding refuge within our borders. You can’t cheat to assist a candidate with honorable values gain office. Your efforts become tainted by your own dishonesty. The current administration provides an easy target for opponents to point their fingers and say that the ends justify the means in fighting it. But they don’t. Pointing out that our opponent has done as bad or worse is not a justification for our own misbehavior. If we succumb to such tactics and behavior then, in the immortal words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”





Reader Comments (2)

Damn fine article, Casey. We live in the age of social media manipulation, and we consume at our own risk. I fear what the NYT has exposed is the tip of the iceberg.

January 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterC.W. Spooner

What you’re coming to recognize is that the left has never had the moral high ground. Many politicians on the left feign a high-minded ethos but are actually self-serving elitists. Many progressive policies promote an abandonment of traditional morality. This leftist undermining is what has led to most of the social ills we are currently suffering from. Fatherless homes, rampant abortion, slums, marijuana-induced psychosis and the sexualization of children are natural outgrowths of immoral leftist ideologies.

January 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

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